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6 Types of Cybersecurity Threats Small Employers Should Know

One of the biggest threats that employers face today are cybersecurity risks. Recent years have seen a significant increase in the number and scale of cyber-attacks on businesses, mainly due to the vast amount of data many organizations manage and store.

And while most people tend to think of large, Fortune-500 organizations when it comes to cyber-attacks and data breaches, small and medium-sized employers (SMBs) face the exact same risks and compliance challenges. As a matter of fact, cyber criminals target SMBs in more than 50% of cyber-attacks.

That’s why it’s not only important for these employers to create a cybersecurity prevention strategy, but to also be aware of what types of threats are out there.

Here are 6 of the most common cybersecurity risks that SMBs leaders must know about and take actions to prevent.


Perhaps the most well-known cyber threat today is malware, which is an abbreviated term for malicious software. Malware is designed to access a computer or network without the knowledge of the owner or user.

When a computer has been infected by malware, an external user can sometimes gain access to the infected systems and sensitive files or information.

Mobile devices, too, can be targeted by malware, which is why employers need to take preventative measures to defend against this type of software.

The most common way a computer becomes infected by malware is through downloading a file that has been infected. This can be done via emails, website ads and pop-ups, and even from USB drives.

Having antivirus software installed on company computers and laptops is a great first step to preventing a potential breach. It’s also recommended to have regular training for employees so that they know what to watch out for and what not to click/open.


One particular type of malware that is becoming increasingly more popular is ransomware. In this type of cyber-attack, an external actor uses this malicious software to lock certain parts of a computer from the owner.

In order for the files to be unlocked, the computer’s owner is told that the only way to regain access to the files or device is by sending a payment to a specific account/address. However, often times paying the “ransom” won’t guarantee that the ransomware will be removed.

Much like other types of malware, employers need to train their employees on what they should and shouldn’t click on in emails or on the internet. It’s also recommended to have virus/malware scanning software that looks at email attachments. This can help detect a potential threat before it gets opened by an employee.


Another common type of cyber threat is phishing attacks. Much like malware and ransomware, phishing attacks are carried out by trying to trick internet or email users into clicking on something (usually a link) that will download the malicious software to your device.

Common phishing attacks include emails, website pop-ups, text messages, and instant messages. Some phishing attacks will even ask for personal information, which can be a significant problem for an individual who gets tricked into providing it.

Once again, employers must train employees about phishing attacks and what to look for, as well as take preventative measures for company devices and networks.


Unlike the other threats mentioned so far, this one isn’t a type of malicious software. The majority of cyber-attacks on businesses happen because of employee error. It’s also the most common cybersecurity threat most employers face, with around 53% of all data breaches caused by employees.

This can be clicking on a phishing email, downloading a corrupted file, not sending out encrypted emails to protect sensitive information, or not having strong passwords.

While the threat of malware attacks can be decreased through anti-virus software and training, it can be more challenging for employers to manage employee passwords.

A common way some employers address this is by requiring their staff to change their passwords after a certain period of time.

Additionally, employers can train their employees on password best practices to help keep computers and software secure.


This type of cybersecurity threat is different from the previous one because there is intent from an inside person. This can be a current employee who is disgruntled or even a former employee who still has access to certain software or programs.

It could also be done for retribution or monetary gain (through ransomware for example).

To prevent this type of attack, employers must revoke access to all systems, software, and data when an employee leaves – no matter whether they quit/resign or are fired.

Training can also help employees notice potential instances of inside cyber-attacks before they become a serious threat.


IoT stands for “internet-of-things,” which refers to the countless devices all over the world that are collecting and sharing data through internet connectivity. While this has made technology and daily life easier for people, it also represents a major vulnerability for individuals and employers.

For example, if an external actor gains access to a company iPad, they might be able to use it to get into other devices and networks. Clearly, IoT presents a unique challenge for company leaders when it comes to cybersecurity.

Once again, having strong and unique passwords across devices is a must, as is routinely changing them. Companies should also closely monitor device and network settings and alter them as needed to decrease the chances of an IoT attack.


The best way to be prepared for cyber threats is to have a cybersecurity prevention plan in place. Small employers, too, must have this type of strategy given the negatives outcomes that arise from a cyber breach.

Working with risk management professionals can help create these types of plans, as well as provide appropriate training and resources on how to improve cybersecurity.

With cyber threats becoming more common each year, all employers need to take them seriously in order to protect employee and client data.

One area of HR is becoming increasingly more difficult for small employers to properly handle — maintaining compliance with employment laws. Download our eBook, Guide to Employment Law: Topics Employers Must Know to Stay Compliant, to learn more about some of the biggest trends and topics in employment law.

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